Just three short weeks of tipping remain and it still does not get any easier. Our guru Tipping Point is here to give you the tips, picks and why you should do so.
At a glance: Dragons, Bulldogs, Sharks, Cowboys, Broncos, Raiders, Manly, Storm
Weâ€™re down to the business end of the tipping year and what you often find at this stage is that thereâ€™s very little difference between everyoneâ€™s tips, especially those leading their respective competitions. Ladder leaders can generally back the favourites at this stage and get home, but if youâ€™re a few tips outside the podium itâ€™s worth taking a few risks to try and make up some ground. This week I will be identifying the best value upsets if you wanted to roll the dice.
Dragons v Panthers, WIN Stadium
The Panthers have won five straight against the Dragons and coming off a great performance against the Warriors they have to be some chance in Wollongong. Iâ€™ve been really impressed with Will Smith over the last two weeks and Tyrone Peachey had an absolute field day against the Warriors, but St George at home will be a sterner test. The Dragons were touched-up by the Broncos last week but welcome back Benji Marshall, and I think with a semi-final spot up for grabs the Red V might just want the win a little more.
Souths v Bulldogs, ANZ Stadium
If the last two clashes between the two sides is anything to go by, this ought to be a ripper contest. The Bunnies played their best game since the early rounds last week, systematically dismantling the Cowboys off the back of their forward pack and the precision kicking of Adam Reynolds. The Doggies cruised to an easy win against the Titans, but it came at a cost with Michael Lichaa ruled out for the season, but this is offset by the rumoured return of Josh Reynolds. The Bunnies will also be without Luke Keary who will miss one game due to a shoulder charge, and Issac Luke who has been suspended for a dangerous throw (but beat his shoulder charge ban). John Sutton is also in some doubt which leave the Bunnies pretty short in the playmaking stakes. The betting is pretty even but the tipping trend favours the Bunnies quite strongly. With three straight wins over the Dogs and given their strong effort over the Cowboys last week, I think the Bunnies will be hard to beat. That said, thereâ€™s definitely some value in a Bulldogs tip if you need to make some ground as Iâ€™m confident most competition leaders will be taking the Bunnies. I expect the Dogs of war to be unleashed and they may well take home the chocolates and settle the score from the spiteful Good Friday clash.
Sharks v Tigers, Remondis Stadium
The Sharks have their third home fixture in a row and will be seeking to atone for an awful performance against the Storm last Monday night which ended their five-game winning streak. The Tigers were also poor last weekend, unexpectedly losing at home to the Knights in a scrappy affair but admittedly they did lose Aaron Woods for most of the game. He is in some doubt, as are Farah and Brooks, but they do welcome back Marty Taupau. The Sharks field virtually the same side as last week, except for the injured Barba who will miss a few weeks (not that heâ€™s been getting much game time on the bench). This game will be closer than people think. The Tigers have sprung a few upsets this season and they have a decent record against the Sharks â€“ and teams often drop consecutive matches after winning streaks. Part of me wants to tip the Tigers, but it would be a big gamble especially with a few key players in doubt. Stick with the Sharks and hope they catch the Tigers on one of their bad days, or take the Tigers for the upset if youâ€™re playing for a weekly prize or really need to make ground on the leaders.
Warriors v Cowboys, Mount Smart Stadium
The Warriors have deadset given up the ghost in 2015 and I think the Cowboys can get the job done, despite being in pretty poor form. They simply must win to have any hope of the minor premiership, whereas I donâ€™t know if the Warriors have another win in them all season.
Roosters v Broncos, Allianz Stadium
The minor premiership goes up for grabs between the ultra-consistent Broncos and the mercurial Roosters. Iâ€™m not sure what to make of the Chooks in 2015. They havenâ€™t lost since round 13 but theyâ€™ve come awfully close, and thereâ€™s been plenty of indifferent performances along the way (Eels, Titans, Bulldogs). You just get the sense that a loss isnâ€™t far away. I estimate 75% of tipsters will take the Roosters and I think a Broncos tip is a calculated gamble: theyâ€™ve gotten their mini-slump out of the way, have their key players on deck and I think they can pull off a snatch-and-grab in Sydney where they have an exceptional record over the Roosters with nine wins from their last 11 fixtures. Take the Broncos if you need to make some ground and want to stand out from the crowd.
Titans v Raiders, Cbus Super Stadium
Canberraâ€™s finals charge came to a controversial end last week, narrowly pipped at the post by Manly. With their top eight aspirations done, they may turn up a bit flat for this clash but Iâ€™m reluctant to pick the Titans without Sezer, who has been ruled out for the year with a shoulder injury. Their record without the classy half is diabolical, and I think the Raiders will maintain their strong away form where theyâ€™ve won six from 10.
Manly v Eels, Brookvale Oval
Manlyâ€™s juggernaut continued last week and a finals spot is now within their grasp having won six of their last seven games. You just have to take them at Brookvale, but I think the Eels will be a tricky opponent. Despite all the controversy and the injury toll, the Eels arenâ€™t doing that bad in 2015. They knocked over the Panthers a fortnight ago and led the Roosters at HT last week: they wonâ€™t surrender easily and with Jake Trbojevic in doubt, Manly look a little thin in the forwards. I give the Eels hope but itâ€™s too big a risk to tip them.
Storm v Knights, AAMI Park
The Storm answered their critics with a clinical 30-2 drubbing of the Sharks last weekend in a performance which reminded everyone that thereâ€™s enough experience and talent in the squad to make it past week one of the finals. The Knights are in the rare position of coming off a win following their surprise come-from-behind effort against the Tigers at Campbelltown. Despite this good showing I just canâ€™t see the Knights winning this. With just one win from their last nine against Melbourne I think theyâ€™re in for a tough evening against a clinical Storm outfit in good form.